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Lack of associational standing dooms seventh circuit appeal

February 9, 2013 by in General

A Milwaukee probationary police officer and the police union brought an action against the city and board of police commissioners alleging that the officer’s termination violated due process. The district court granted summary judgment to the city and police board and the plaintiffs appealed. The officer settled before oral argument to the circuit court, leaving the police union as the only appellant. The circuit court dismissed the appeal because the police union never had standing to bring the suit on its own behalf and any standing previously derived from the officer’s membership in the union was mooted by the officer’s settlement.

An organization can assert standing either on behalf of itself or on behalf of its members, known as associational standing. The court found that the union did not have direct standing because it could not assert any direct injury from the officer’s termination. To assert associational standing, an organization must satisfy three criteria: (1) its members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right; (2) the interests its seeks to protect are germane to the organization’s purpose; and (3) neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires participation of individual members.

In this case, the union could not maintain associational standing because it failed the first criterion. The police officer who settled was the only member of the union who stood in the same position, so the union had no members who would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Milwaukee Police Association v. Board of Police and Fire Commissioners of the City of Milwaukee, 708 F.3d 921 (7th Cir. 2013).

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